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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Before the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, decides what she proposes to do about her amendments, may I press the Minister a little

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on the additional material in his answer which had not been anticipated at this stage. First, on a mechanical point, is he going to allocate additional resources to PACTS and ACAS to deal with the responsibilities for advising under the Bill? Secondly—and we do not disagree with this—we want to see systems of guidance and advice in place so that as and when sections of the Bill come into force there is already in place an appropriate network. Obviously, we want that advice to be in place. We do not want the job of setting up those advice networks to be an excuse for deferring or delaying the implementation or phasing in of sections of the Bill. Can the Minister be more helpful to us? What sort of timescale does he envisage? We are more worried because the network of advice and guidance he expected to be in place already—that is to say, NACAB—is not. Therefore the Minister will have to build a network of advice, possibly from scratch, which could take several years. Given what the Minister has just said, that could mean very significant delays in the implementation of vitally important parts of this Bill. Can the Minister help us on all that?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: First, PACTS and ACAS have adequate resources to meet the obligations placed upon them. I cannot go much further. I have already laid out in some detail what we intend to do. We are committed, as I said, to ensuring that disabled people gain the benefit of their new rights quickly and efficiently, but we have to ensure that these things are done in the right order. There is no point in implementing a part of the Bill before the other parts upon which it depends are in place. We have to try to take this in some order.

Of course the arrangements for the advice to disabled people which the noble Baroness mentioned are not yet firmed. We have explained what we want to do. We are exploring how the locally provided services can be provided. We are sorry that NACAB has decided that it cannot help us in that regard. But we are sure that other people and other organisations will be willing to help us, especially when the Bill becomes law, when those organisations may be more content to try to make the Bill work and to ensure that the system works for disabled people, rather than at present when, perhaps understandably, they are still campaigning on a number of issues, and they do not want to appear to have given away those issues before they feel they absolutely have to.

Lord Swinfen: Before my noble friend sits down, he said that he hoped other organisations would help with the guidance, and the implementation of the Bill. What organisations does he have in mind that have the skills and expertise and enough branches throughout the UK to give all the advice that will be required?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We may well come to this issue two or three days hence. One does not need to use the same organisation throughout the whole of the country. That is something we are considering. As I say, I believe that there are organisations which will be more than interested in providing the service once the Bill becomes law. Perhaps I may suggest to my noble friend that we cross those bridges when we come to them. Today is not the day to cross that bridge. I believe that there will be plenty of organisations which will be prepared to help and we shall be able to set up what I believe is important;

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that is, a locally based network. I am well aware of the undercurrent that exists in relation to this part of the questioning.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: May I hope that the Minister will tell us, ideally in Committee, what organisations he has in mind? It is crucial. The Minister has just made that clear in an important statement. I do not object to what he is trying to do here. He has made it clear that he will not bring in crucial clauses of the Bill until the network is in place. So we need to know when that network will be in place. For that we need to know what organisations may be willing to provide that network and be in place. The Minister must tell us. As I understand it the reasons for the CAB—I have its statement here—refusing to play the role that the Government intended was not that it has some other agenda and prefers a different Bill, but that it thinks it is important to protect, as it says, its principles of independence and impartiality, which it fears might be compromised if it were to be seen as a government agent in this field. I understand that that is the basis of its hesitation.

Given, as the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, said, that to someone like myself only the CAB would appear to have the extensive local network in place—I cannot think of any other organisation that has—the Government must give us a little more help or tell us when they will give us some help, because otherwise the Minister will forgive us for believing that this will be an excuse for delay and delay and delay and delay of the crucial phasing in of rights for disabled people.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not going to accept that from the noble Baroness, because I made it clear early in my remarks in response to my noble friend that we intend to bring into force at the same time that part of the Bill which deals with employment rights and certain provisions of the parts dealing with goods, facilities and services.

We envisage that that will be some time towards the end of next year. It is our intention—I apologise for repeating myself, but I clearly need to underline the point—to introduce some months before that the employment code of practice and any necessary regulations. I mentioned some other bodies which will be helping and dealing with those matters and which will need to be ready to be up and running when the powers in the Bill come into force.

I can understand the Baroness wishing to press me, but we will probably be returning to the point about advice services later in Committee. I shall then be happy to go into it in some detail. I shall underline that we want locally based sources which will be available locally for disabled people. That is an important aspect to which I have no doubt we will be returning. I do not have a crystal ball. I do not know who will be prepared to provide the service. All I know is that I am pretty certain that people will be prepared to do it. We will have to take steps to ensure that we deliver the service we want.

That is not an excuse for delay. I rebut that suggestion by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. We intend that the Bill will work as we intend it to work—efficiently and

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effectively for disabled people. We will bring it in as quickly as we can, consistent with the fact that it is a complicated area and we have to get it right.

Baroness Seear: Will not the Minister need a variety of different sources for giving advice? When it comes to what employers will have to do and the considerable and expensive adjustments they will have to make, surely that will be a different organisation. I should have thought that the HSE would be the organisation to give a great deal of advice to employers so as to make their premises such as they can be used by disabled people. They are different sources from the sources which will be needed for implementing other parts of the legislation. Is not that the position? A variety of different sources will be needed to give advice to employers and the people who will use the services.

Lord Renton: My noble friend is fully entitled to bear in mind that the bodies which will be suitable for consultation will vary from time to time. There may be amalgamations. I fully support what he said.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: I spoke on that very point on Second Reading, but the Minister was not in the Chamber. I have never received a reply to my questions. I feel strongly about this matter if there are to be different organisations. Many organisations throughout the country are short of money. Some of them have already gone to the wall. There needs to be a national body with bureaux throughout the country which are accessible to disabled people or there will be a mishmash of disorganisation which I am sure none of us wants. I hope the Minister takes the point seriously, otherwise the legislation will be a mess.

Lord Swinfen: My noble friend will realise that all Members of the Committee, and of this place generally, want to ensure that the Bill works properly for the sake of employers as well as for disabled employees. It would be helpful if at some stage in Committee my noble friend were to give an indication of what organisations he is considering to produce the advice, because the Committee will want to be satisfied that for the various types of advice that will be needed—there will be various types and not all one kind of advice—those organisations have the knowledge and organisation, and a wide enough spread, not necessarily throughout the whole country but in various parts, if my noble friend is going to break it up, to make them capable of doing the job that the Government will ask them to do.

Earl Russell: While the Minister was speaking I was looking at the wording of Clause 22(1) which states:

    "The Secretary of State may make arrangements for the provision of advice and assistance ... with a view to promoting the settlement of disputes ... otherwise than by recourse to the courts".

That looks as though we are considering several different sorts of advice. That sounds to me more like the sort of mediation or arbitration which this place has in the past discussed in relation to law centres, which is a very distinct point from assistance. Clearly the Minister is entitled to consider them separately. Equally clearly, we need to get them right.

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I hope that the Minister understands that our anxiety to get him to cross a bridge, and to understand the structure of that bridge, is because we want to see him safely reach the other side. He may congratulate himself on having brought forward a Bill which the Opposition are eager to see come into force sooner rather than later.

7 p.m.

Lord Butterfield: Perhaps I may interject one quasi-medical point. For some time the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust has supported the establishment of groups of people in different counties, in particular the West and the South-West, who are in a position to give good advice to disabled people in their neck of the woods. I am concerned that a subtle form of almost computerised service may be needed to provide names and addresses of the people who can give good advice on specific topics under different circumstances.

Will the Minister consider carrying out a survey of such groups? They have been in operation for some years and in some parts of the country are regarded as providing extremely good clinical services for disabled people.

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